How to Eat and Drink Wheat-Free at the Bar

When you’re changing to a wheat-free lifestyle or diet, it’s important to think about not only what you eat, but what you drink. Whether you're meeting for drinks after work or over a business dinner to close a deal, alcohol is usually at the center of the gathering.

Calling the bar or restaurant to see whether it's equipped to meet your wheat-free needs and/or you can bring your own bottle lets you stay wheat-free and enjoy a glass of your favorite alcoholic beverage.

The temptation to drink at work or business functions can be very strong. If you're not prepared, you may find yourself in trouble, especially if you're highly sensitive to wheat or gluten. Even though avoiding wheat when having a drink is possible, remember that many mixed drinks contain sugary juices that greatly affect your blood sugar and insulin levels.

When you want to enjoy an adult beverage, here's what to be on the lookout for in each of the three categories of alcohol:

  • Beer: Beer is wheat-free but not gluten-free, so if you're not avoiding gluten, beer is an okay option. Traditionally, beer is made with barley, which contains gluten. However, brewers are now using buckwheat, millet, and sorghum in place of barley to remove the gluten.

    Gluten-free beers can be difficult to find because of their seasonal and regional limitations. If a restaurant doesn't carry what you're looking for, you may want to consider one of its gluten-free alcoholic options.

  • Liquor: Presumably, distillation eliminates gluten from the wheat, barley, and rye that's used in making gin, vodka, and whiskey, creating a gluten-free drink. However, some makers don't fully distill the alcohol to the point that all the gluten is removed, and some add gluten-containing grain to give the drink a more palatable flavor and color.

    Although most hard liquor is considered safe, if you suffer from celiac disease or are gluten intolerant, you may want to err on the side of caution. Look for non-grain liquors such as brandy, rum, tequila, potato-based vodka, and juniper berry-based gin.

  • Wine: Wine is made from the fermentation of grapes and therefore is generally regarded as being wheat- and gluten-free. However, some wine makers add food coloring and flavoring that contains wheat, age their wine in barrels that contain wheat paste, or use wheat to fine their wine for clarity and sediment removal.

    Added colors and flavors are usually found in dessert wines that have a strong fruit flavor. If you look hard enough, you can find organic wines that are free of these practices and additives, rendering them wheat-free.

Most restaurants won't give you an ingredient list for drinks unless you ask. Even then, they may be reluctant to give out any recipe secrets. When in doubt, play it safe and stick to beverages you know to be wheat-free.

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